At least 24 people have been killed and over 200 injured after Coptic Christians clashed with military police in Cairo on 9 October, in the most violent scenes since the uprising that resulted in the ousting of former leader Hosni Mubarak in February.
The fighting started when Christians took to the streets protesting over the recent partial demolition of a church in the southern Aswan province. They blamed Muslim radicals for the attack, and demanded that the province's governor be sacked for failing to protect the church. In the ensuing riots, Christians burnt cars and army vehicles and threw rocks at military police who retaliated with force and arrested dozens of protesters. Egyptian news agency MENA reported that most of the casualties were Christian.
The violent reaction of the military police has inevitably drawn comparisons to the Mubarak regime it replaced, and Christians, who constitute about ten per cent of the 80 million population are particularly worried about what they see as the increasing heavy-handed approach from the ultra-conservative Islamist establishment. Although tensions between Christians and Muslims have increased significantly since the uprising, activists from both sides said that this time the violence was less to do with sectarian differences and more to do with the reaction of the army.
The latest violent events have done little to assuage the fears of many Egyptians that the country